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Cheltenham Design Festival 2019

Cheltenham Design Festival

Inspiring people through creativity:

Insights from the Cheltenham Design Festival


The Cheltenham Design Festival is a charity event run by the Cheltenham Design Foundation – a small team dedicated to promoting the benefits of design and creativity to people from all backgrounds. CDF 2019 took place on November 1-3 at the Parabola Arts Centre in Gloucestershire.


The festival gathered some of the industry’s brightest and most talented designers for a full day of talks on Days 1&2, and an interesting line-up of creative workshops on Day 3. The event was in support of the Cheltenham Design Foundation’s vision of helping people find their creative voice and showing the world what design can do. 


Holition was in attendance during the second day of the festival, where our Head Creative, Tommy Howard, was among the roster of speakers.  Joining Tommy were:

chel all speakers board square copy

Gavin Strange - Director and Designer, 4x Academy Award-winning animation studio, Aardman Animations


Kassia St Clair - Cultural Historian and Author of The Secret Lives of Colour


Steve Matteson - Creative Type Director at Monotype


Craig Oldham - Designer, Lecturer, Writer & Artist


Tina Touli - Multidisciplinary Communications Designer


Cat Drew - Chief Design Officer, Design Council


Yoko Sen - Sound Alchemist & Founder, Sensou

In this article, we round up a few insights we picked up from a full day of presentations and discussions, with the objective of furthering the discourse on assessing the impact of the Design community and understanding the role that it has today. 


As it stands, the UK has the second-largest design sector in the world and the largest design industry in Europe, generating £85.2bn in gross value added (GVA) to the UK in 2016 (Design Council, 2018). As we find ourselves in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, where physical, digital, and biological systems converge, the urgency to develop and cultivate new talent and to promote an inclusive design industry is even more pivotal. All these and more were some of the primary points of discussion.


Cultivating creativity and pursuing your passion

Creativity is the fuel that propels design forward. It allows us to ideate, look at things from countless perspectives, enables us to produce tangible objects, and develop meaningful experiences. Creativity is also both innate and learnt. As with any other skill, it needs to be harnessed properly in order for it to become a true catalyst for change. 


According to Gavin Strange, chasing after things you are passionate about all boils down into one thing: mentality.

That means...

1. Not allowing skill level stop you, because repetition develops intuition. 

2. Having the energy to push yourself, especially in times when you are facing barriers.


It’s all about finding the right balance between having a sense of idealism, but tackled in a very realistic way. We all have the same 24 hours as Beyonce, Gavin says. As he took us through his experiences of being in the creative industry, he also stressed on the importance of identifying concrete steps that will enable you to put your work out in the world. 


Time is a tricky thing, but it’s universal.

No matter where you are in the world, we all have the same 24 hours. It’s also like a currency.  So it’s not about working harder, it’s about working smarter: deciding where to invest your time and spend your energy on.  - Gavin Strange

Harnessing data and design to create meaningful experiences

Second, the Cheltenham Design Festival also tackled the various ways that the design industry as a whole is creating valuable impact today. Holition’s own Head Creative, Tommy Howard shared his experience of harnessing data and design to create meaningful experiences.


Tommy’s work here at Holition combines art direction, animation, design, and management to bring to life future retail solutions through augmented reality, big data visualisations, holographics, interactive installations, mobile UI/UX, and projection mapping. 


He shared some of Holition’s most notable collaborations that highlight the importance of taking a step back and understanding how we use tech in a meaningful way, rather than using tech for takes sake. Designing these digital experiences enable us to elevate consumer experiences and give us the opportunity to further the conversation on pressing social issues such as global refugee victims and the effect of migration. 


In an age that is composed of so much visual noise, we ask ourselves, how can we harness the physical world to get people to look up and be inspired by what they see?

- Tommy Howard


We are able to accomplish this by:


1. Creating simple and meaningful user experiences - which seeks to understand the challenges our clients are trying to address


2. Beautiful execution - grounded on academic research and a strong creative narrative


3. Using tech to amplify human experiences


4. Harnessing big data to tell meaningful stories - most especially through nonprofit collaborations

Design is the thread that connects people together. - Kassia St Clair

We left Cheltenham with a wider understanding of what it means to be a designer today and the role that design has in the grander scheme of things.


From its ability to inspire others through creativity to tackling social challenges and economic growth - design plays a pivotal role in bringing people together, raising the right (though sometimes difficult) questions, and encouraging people to take action.


Holition shares in the Cheltenham Design Foundation and the Design Council’s vision of inspiring people through creativity.